What is Hormone Health?
Hormones are messengers in the body from glands to tissue end organs. The word "hormone” means "to spur on" from Greek. They promote chemical changes at the cellular level that are necessary for growth, development and energy. Some are steroid (made from cholesterol), some peptides (parts of proteins). Steroids are involved in sex cell maturation and fertility and peptides are generally involved in sleep and blood sugar levels.
Hormone health can be achieved when all your hormones are balanced and within an optimal functional range, but not necessarily a medical range. I use a functional range as I find it more useful to promoting optimal health.
Another aspect of hormone health is the concept of allostasis or the ability to achieve stability, or homeostasis, through physiological or behavioral change. Your body must be functionally sound in all areas to carry this out, and when you can, you will be truly healthy. That is my goal for you!
Overview of the Endocrine System
There are 50 hormones produced in the body.
Thyroid: The Master Gland
The thyroid gland, located in the front of your neck is a small butterfly shaped gland with 4 small circular parathyroid glands on the back side. It is part of the extended HPAT axis and is involved in negative feedback loops with the brain. It is called the master gland as it regulates metabolism (chemical changes producing energy) throughout the body.
Thyroid production is actually much more complicated, than production of the other hormones in the body, as it has different forms and is activated in different tissues in the body. Like the adrenals it is regulated by the hypothalamus and pituitary glands via a negative feedback loop. The thyroid gland produces two different forms of thyroid hormone: T3 and T4. T4 is much less active than T3 but there is a lot more of it. T3 is only about 2-3% of total amount made, but T4 is transformed into T3 in the liver, gastrointestinal tract and peripheral tissues. If, however, you are really stressed out (most of us), another form of T3 can be made, called reverse T3, which is inactive. Laboratory testing of the thyroid can look at the level of reverse T3 made, and can rule out Hashimotos’ hypothyroidism (one of the most common types), which is really an autoimmune problem. Of course, your liver, GI tract and peripheral tissues must be able to make enough T3 for you to be totally healthy!
Hypothyroidsim (too little production of thyroid hormone) is at epidemic levels in this country currently. Laboratory levels of thyroid hormones are another area where medical reference ranges are not necessarily the optimal functional level. Symptoms are taken into consideration, and, sometimes along with secondary tests, they are more indicative of the nature of the problem, than are lab values.
There are many herbal, homeopathic medicines, glandular and supplements that can help with thyroid health. And, support for the liver, GI tract and peripheral tissues may be necessary to re-establish normalcy of transformation of T4 to T3.